At first glance, the PowerBar 235 appears much too small to produce meaningful low-end extension (the enclosure measure 42” x 5.25” x 5.75”), yet Atlantic says frequency response extends down to a more than respectable 47 Hz (-3dB), which makes subwoofers more of an option than a necessity. In practice, I found the subjective impression was that the little soundbar went even lower than that, perhaps because the bass this compact system provides sounds astonishingly clean and clear—at least most of the time.
But bass is really only part of the PowerBar 235’s story, as Atlantic demonstrated in a convincing way by beginning its demonstration with some audiophile-grade music material. What was impressive was to see and hear the 235 serve up a remarkably refined and musically engaging presentation, despite its modest size and relatively humble configuration. Overall sound quality was, I felt, far, far better than that of most of the HTiB (home theater in a box) rigs I’ve heard, regardless of price. The beauty, then, is to have a system that is compact in size and dirt simple to set up, yet that still gives satisfying, sophisticated sonic results. The price? Well, it isn’t set yet but educated guesses run anywhere from $599 (which is probably unrealistically low) to around $799 (which is probably much closer to what the final MSRP will be).
AudioQuest used CEDIA as a vehicle for rolling out its new “Bridges and Falls”-series cables, which are—you guessed it—named after famous bridges (e.g., “Golden Gate”) and waterfalls. But perhaps even more importantly, AudioQuest used the show as an opportunity to substantiate its often-publicized claims that, in today’s rapidly evolving world of HDMI-based components and computer-based audio systems literally “everything matters,” so that even seeming small changes can have a significant impact on sound quality. As you might imagine, “everything” pointedly includes digital interconnect cables, including USB and HDMI cables of the type AudioQuest manufactures.
To drive home its point, AudioQuest set up a simple but very revealing demonstration where a modest Blu-ray player was linked to a typical name brand A/V receiver via an HDMI cable with a good (but not ostentatiously expensive) pair of AKG headphones used for playback. Listeners first heard the system set up with a “Brand X” HDMI cable, then with a mid-line AudioQuest Carbon HDMI cable, and finally with a top-of-the-line AudioQuest Diamond HDMI cable. Were there audible differences between the various HDMI cables? There most certainly were, and they frankly did not require card-carrying “Golden Ears” to detect. As the demonstration unfolded, both of the AudioQuest cables handily outperformed the competitor’s cable, with the AudioQuest Diamond cable offering the best sound overall (the differences were readily apparent).
I recognize that many ostensibly learned (and typically quite argumentative) pundits say that it is theoretically “impossible” for digital cables to make any sonic difference at all. Be that as it may, the readily observable fact is that cables do make a difference, whether we fully understand why they do or not. If you find this assertion hard to swallow, all I can suggest is that you try a test such as the one AudioQuest set up in its booth, and see what results you get. But know this: once you hear what a good digital interconnect cable can do, there’s no going back…
As a relative newcomer to CEDIA, Audio Research was exhibiting out of the booth of its new parent company Fine Sounds. The firm chose CEDIA as a showcase for the rollout of its brand new Definition-series DSPre combination DAC/solid-state preamp—the company’s first ever product of this kind.